Monday, October 25, 2004

The District last year had the highest homicide rate of any city in the country that has more than 500,000 residents, despite a decline in killings from 2002, according to FBI statistics released yesterday.

The FBI’s 2003 Uniform Crime Report shows that the city’s 249 homicides among its 563,384 residents registered a rate of 44.2 killings per 100,000 persons. The rate was down from the 2002 rate of 46.2 killings per 100,000 persons.

New Orleans had a higher homicide rate, 57.7 killings per 100,000 persons, and a higher overall number of killings, 274, than the District last year. But its population of 475,128 is below the 500,000 threshold for the FBI to compare it with the District.

The next-highest homicide rate was in Baltimore, which recorded 270 homicides among its 644,554 population for a rate of 41.9 killings per 100,000 persons.

The report, based on crime statistics submitted by 17,000 state and local law-enforcement agencies across the country, showed that the national average of the 22 cities whose populations were between 500,000 and 1 million residents was 13.6 killings per 100,000 persons.

Chicago had the highest number of homicides last year with 598 among its nearly 3 million residents. New York City, which had just over 8 million residents, had 597 killings.

The District had recorded 163 killings as of yesterday, which puts it on pace to finish the year with 199 homicides — the lowest total since 1986.

And while it’s the highest in the nation, the District’s homicide rate is nowhere near where it stood when the District was routinely referred to as the “murder capital of the United States.” In 1990, there were 474 killings in the city and a homicide rate of 78.1 per 100,000 residents.

Overall, the rate of violent crimes — which include murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — declined in the District almost 2 percent to 1,608.1 violent crimes committed per 100,000 residents. The District trailed only Detroit and Baltimore in that category.

The violent crime rate in Maryland experienced the second-largest decline of any state in the nation, with an 8.7 percent decline to 703.9 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Only New Mexico had a larger decrease in its violent crime rate.

Virginia experienced a 5.4 percent decrease that left the violent crime rate at 275.8 per 100,000 residents — 14th-best in the nation.

Both Maryland and Virginia saw increases in their homicide totals, with Virginia recording 413 statewide last year compared with 388 in 2002. Maryland increased to 525 statewide last year from 513.

The story was similar nationwide, where killings in “metropolitan counties” with a population of 100,000 or more increased almost 1 percent last year.

Homicide was the only violent crime that increased across the country in 2003, with the 16,503 slayings reported by police to the FBI representing a 1.7 percent rise from the year before.

Nearly eight in 10 homicide victims last year were male and 90 percent were adults. Nearly 71 percent of the 2003 killings involved a firearm, and 13 percent involved knives or other cutting instruments.

Nationwide, the violent crime rate was 475 for every 100,000 Americans, a 3.9 percent decrease from 2002. Aggravated assaults, which make up two-thirds of all violent crimes, have dropped for 10 straight years.

There were nearly 1.4 million violent crimes in 2003, 3 percent fewer than in 2002.

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